A critical review of the article “When Cultures and Computers Collide. Rethinking Computer-Mediated Communication according to International and Intercultural Communication Expectations”, by Amant K. St., (2002)
Discussing intercultural computer-mediated communication (ICCMC), Amant clarifies what happens “when cultures and computers collide”. He claims that although the computer-mediated communication (CMC) brings together individuals from different cultures, some CMC attributes appear to go against the communication needs and expectations of certain cultural groups. He focuses on two points of controversy: the online identity of users and their needs to establish online ethos. According to him, intercultural communication (ICC) and CMC conflict in several points:
- ICCMC reduces human interaction to words as CMC lacks nonverbal cues (is faceless);
- ICCMC allows computer software to “masquerade” as human beings, which may conflict with the communication norms in certain cultures;
- CMC allows authorship modification while humour, wit and ostentatious behaviour may generate misunderstanding;
- People communicating in a non-native language may perceive a message conveying irony, sarcasm and cynicism differently;
- Silence in ICCMC may be interpreted differently; people who seem more silent or passive could be seen as “less important” versus active participants.
Amant concludes that scholars should compare CMC and ICC trends mentioned in the referential literature to see where their communication patterns collide. He calls this approach “international digital studies”, which should examine the online intercultural interaction, identify and analyse the challenges of ICCMC and the potential areas of conflict. In the highly competitive areas of e-business, any ICCMC miscommunication could affect important international relationships. Defining new guidelines on ICCMC and productive business practices may help overcome any potential shortcomings.
Content wise, Amant avoids clichés when describing different cultures. He does not appear to be biased and he manages to strike a balance by comparing previous research outcomes against the latest academic developments of both ICC and ICCMC.
It is worth noting the reference to Hall’s theory of high and low context cultural categorisation, which, according to Amant, explains why cultural settings may affect the communication process and outcome, mainly in an online condition.
He further states that, according to Hall’s model, identity is essential to knowing how to interact and behave in a given face-to-face and online context. However, as his conclusions may be contradicted by the research following the year of 2002, it is essential to note the outcome quality of his studies, notably in terms of advantages and drawbacks when communicating cultures across computer networks.
Although the article is very dense, I personally find it easy to read. However, the article could have been divided into smaller units and paragraphs to improve readability. The author’s style does not raise any stumbling blocks. He is very concise and careful when mentioning concepts previously coined by scholars. Even though the style is accessible and concepts are well introduced, when closing paragraphs, Amant emphasises the main idea with a relevant conclusion. This helps a non-expert grasp complex terminology and meanings.
Carrying out research on both ICC and ICCMC before 2002 might have implied a number of limitations, such as looking at only Anglo-American cultures and using the technologies of the time.
Given the publication year, this article may not provide the latest relevant conclusions to be applied to the Web 2.0 context and social media/networks. Further research needs to look deeper at the contrast between face-to-face ICC and ICCMC, notably in terms of identity and ethos construct. Nevertheless, I find this article a major contribution to understanding why ICC and ICCMC may collide.
Amant K. St., (2002), “When Cultures and Computers Collide. Rethinking Computer-Mediated Communication according to International and Intercultural Communication Expectations”, in Journal of Business and Technical Communication, Vol. 16, NO. 2 April 2002, pp. 196-214, Sage Publications (online)